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Internship experience invaluable for nationally lauded commerce grad

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After two weeks as an intern at Hunter Communications, Genevieve Howe was told by managing director, Nicole Moody, “when you finish your internship there is a job here for you”.

The Curtin University student was undertaking the internship as part of the Bachelor of Commerce with a double major in public relations and event management when she was offered the full-time position in 2017.

“I think I’m lucky in the sense that my first internship landed me in a job that I absolutely love and have stuck with for almost five years,” Howe says.

Howe had taken three and a half gap years after high school and worked in fashion retail before moving into management. While gaining this work experience, it sparked her interest into how businesses operated.

“I worked for some really dysfunctional businesses that were nationwide companies,” Howe recalls.

“You could see the parts of them that worked and the parts of them that didn’t and I thought, ‘If I’m this 20-year-old person sitting here in a position of semi-management at a state level, how are the rest of these cogs coming together, and how does this exist?’”

Howe’s interest in a career in strategic communications was not only a natural progression to her time in the workforce, it was also a good fit for her personality – she likes talking to people and organising things.

“I honestly fell into this world and now I can’t imagine what I would be doing if I wasn’t doing this,” she says.

“It is so varied, the work I get to do is challenging, it is interesting, you are constantly problem solving, talking to people, bouncing ideas around. It’s so unbelievably fascinating.

“Any day I’m having a bit of a tricky time or don’t know how I’m going to get through the day, I just think of it as an opportunity to learn something.”

In 2020, her hard work and dedication to the industry was recognised by the Public Relations Institute of Australia at its national awards, as Highly Commended in the Emerging Leaders category. Howe was also a national finalist for this award at the 2020 Mumbrella Awards.

Howe admits the moment she learnt she had been acknowledged, was a moment where she just sat back and thought “that’s pretty cool”.

She credits her ability to be a “bit of a chameleon” when it comes to working with different people from an agency perspective, and for that reason she has excelled in her field.

“You get thrown into all different types of company structures; you get to meet a lot of different people,” she says.

“You could be in boardroom of executives with a corporate issue one minute, then you’re thrown into a media call in Yagan Square with an art installation in the afternoon, and then in Karratha the next day filming for a campaign.

“You need to find a way to relate to everyone and understand everyone’s needs. What it is your client needs in that moment; their expectations in that moment.”

Howe’s breadth of work includes Rottnest Channel Swim, Good Food and Wine Show, supporting with incident responses around deaths, and a national campaign in response to sexual harassment with the Rural Regional Remote Women’s Network.

And even though she enjoyed her time at Curtin, learning and thinking in “the way that you’re taught to think at university”, she believes there are skills you can only learn in an office environment.

“You have these skills and you can learn, write about and talk about with your peers, but you need to be thrown into an environment where you then have people who have two or three years’ experience, five years’ experience, 20 years’ experience,” she explains.

“At no point at university are you taught how to pick-up the phone and have a conversation with someone about a story that you’re trying to pitch or what’s office etiquette around getting people a cup of tea when you get up and turn the kettle on. Simple things like that.”

Howe describes a lot of the interns coming out of university now as incredibly motivated people who will do two or three internships in their final year.

“All the power to them if they have the time in their life to accommodate that,” she says.

“I think the more experience the better, even just a month here and there, fill in your holidays, get as much as you can.”

And while Howe believes it is important to take as many internship opportunities as possible, she also thinks there is another resource students should not overlook – forming connections with lecturers and tutors.

“Especially at Curtin, these are either people who are still working in the industry or are very experienced in the industry and have then moved to academia – that’s the experience I had with people,” she says.

“As much as they are there to teach you a curriculum, to work through certain units and outcomes with you, they are just absolute wells of knowledge. Talk to them about their career: what they did, what skills you are seeking.

“That’s another thing, in a classroom you feel like you’re doing the same as everyone else but you have a set of skills that are individual to you, and your teacher is going to see that more than you’re going to see it or your peers are going to see it.

“Ask them ’where do you think my strengths are, where do you think my weaknesses are?’”

Howe has stayed in touch with some of her lecturers and unit coordinators at Curtin and shares internship opportunities at Hunter with them.

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